Words may not break bones, but they absolutely do hurt. We’ve all experienced words said to or about us that hurt. I know I have, and I continued to hang on to that hurt. I let those painful scars influence how I interacted with others. I never knew if we were friends or enemies.
I moved around quite a bit growing up. Being the new girl sucked. I felt like I was reliving the movies Groundhog Day and Mean Girls each time I went to a new school. Starting with being made fun in elementary school because of my short “boys” haircut to a friend telling the popular girls every tidbit of our conversations and the taunting that pursued, through the jealousy and awkwardness of high school and college. Each incident chipped away at my ability to trust people.
I wasn’t innocent either. I joined in similar behavior and participated in activities that perpetuated the acts. I’ve even betrayed friends. Not my finest hours. I’ve lashed out to hurt others trying to preemptively strike before I could be hurt. I could see the pattern, but even though I tried to stop my behavior it kept happening. I had never dealt with the underlying hurt and kept pretending everything was okay, until yet again, it wasn’t…I would get hurt again and lose more trust in people overall.
Here’s where having more background information is helpful. I was sexually abused as a young girl. It’s relevant to know that I had experienced this betrayal on a deep level by someone I loved although I will discuss the abuse in more detail in another post. This abuse was the first hammer that I remember chipping away at my ability to trust.
All of the chips started adding up, and I got to the point that I really didn’t trust anyone. This lack of trust prevented me from developing deep, intimate relationships. I was in my mid-twenties and going through a divorce when I finally hit bottom. I was desperate to change.
As I embarked on a healing journey, I enrolled in an 8-month closed group class focused on sexual brokenness sponsored by a local church. It was a topic not normally addressed judgment free from a church, and honestly a commitment at the time I didn’t really know if I could keep. I knew though I needed to give it a try. The group would meet for 2 hours each week. The first half of the class was a co-ed session discussing the workbook weekly assignment. Then we would break off into same-sex small groups. The dynamics of this class and those who participated fundamentally changed my perspective of trusting others. Down the road, I went through similar, highly condensed versions like a 6-week course utilizing a fully co-ed setup. I found value in both. It was the first, more detailed class though that initially really propelled my healing forward.
When I look back, the sting of regret for waiting so long still burns. I’ve made peace with my past including the words that were used to tear me down. It was a hard process; yet, one I am grateful for walking through. Are you still holding on to past hurt? What are you waiting for? Deal with the hurt, and move on.
An exercise that I did during my healing journey was to write down every label and bad name that someone called me. The process of writing the words was emotional, in itself. Then, during one of the class sessions, we nailed the folder paper to a cross made of wood to symbolize giving it to Jesus and letting it go. You could burn the paper or whatever symbolic gesture you feel comfortable with doing. The key is the gesture is the physical display of what mentally you are doing.
Here are a few additional resources that might help: